At Dolly Parton’s Tennessee’s love is no secret. One need only listen to his many songs about his upbringing in The Volunteer State to understand how much the Smoky Mountains Region shaped her as a person and a singer-songwriter.
“My Tennessee Mountain Home,” “Tennessee Homesick Blues” and “Appalachian Memories” are just a few of the country legend’s songs that pay homage to the roots of his upbringing.
If you’re planning a Dolly-themed getaway to Tennessee, all you need is the country queen’s discography to guide you. (But we’re here to help, too.) Read on for a musical travel guide to Tennessee from Dolly Parton.
“In my mountain house in Tennessee
life is as peaceful as a baby’s sigh.”
– “My Tennessee Mountain Home”, from My Tennessee Mountain Home, 1973
It all started in Seveierville. Dolly Rebecca Parton, born January 19, 1946, was delivered by Dr. Robert F. Thomas at her parents’ cabin in Locust Ridge. Thomas was a minister and family physician dedicated to bringing quality medical care to the residents of Sevier County, Tennessee.
“Dr. Thomas was a man whom the Lord had to appoint
Live Among Us East Tennessee Mountain People
And he delivered more than half the babies in these mountains
Among these babies, he gave birth to me.”
— “Robert F. Thomas”, My Tennessee Mountain Home, 1973
It goes without saying that Sevierville is proud to be the home of Dolly Parton. In 1987, a statue of the country legend was unveiled on the lawn of the Sevier County Courthouse. This is a must have for any Parton fan.
Statue of Dolly Parton: 125 Court Ave Sevierville, TN 37862
Today, Parton still owns the one-bedroom log cabin where she was born and raised, and over the years has spent a few million dollars restore it.
“What we tried to do was make it look like it was when we lived there, but we wanted it to be functional,” Parton once said. “So I spent a few million dollars to make it look like I spent $50 on it.”
Until you can visit Dolly’s real Tennessee Mountain Home (it’s on private property that is near and dear to the Parton family), the next best thing is located in their theme park up the road…
Dollywood is the ultimate trek for Dolly fans. In 1986, Parton and his partners took over the Silver Dollar City theme park in Pigeon Forge to create Dollywood, a celebration of the country icon’s beloved Smoky Mountains region.
Dollywood: 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
Inside Dollywood is a replica of the log cabin where Parton grew up with her brothers and sisters. The replica cabin was built by Parton’s brother, Bobby, and the interior was recreated by his mother Avie Lee. Inside the cabin are historical treasures of the Parton family, so you feel like you’re walking through the real thing.
Read more: Dolly Parton’s parents inspired her music and charity
But there’s even more Parton history to uncover inside Dollywood. The park’s Chasing Rainbows museum contains a replica of the Coat of Many Colors, the subject of the singer-songwriter’s 1969 classic. The coat has been lovingly recreated by Parton’s mother.
“My coat of many colors that my mom made me
Made only from rags, but I wore it so proud
Even though we had no money
I was rich as I could be
In my coat of many colors
my mom made for me”
— “Mantle of many colors”, Coat of many colors, 1971
Read more: Rooted in the Country: Ginger Minj on Dolly Parton’s ‘Coat of Many Colors’
After spending a day in Dollywood, you can relax at Parton’s DreamMore Resort. Inside the complex is a recording of a secret Dolly Parton song which is kept in a time capsule (the Dream Box), which will not be opened until 2045. The Dream Box is located in the lower hall from the station.
DreamMore Resort and Spa: 2525 DreamMore Wy, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
Nashville is only a four-hour drive from Parton’s hometown of Sevierville, but it might as well have been a world apart.
As parton wrote in “The Letter”, one of many personal songs of her My Tennessee Mountain Home album, Nashville wasn’t exactly what she thought it would be. She was homesick for the Smoky Mountains and her family, but she knew Music City was where it was meant to be. (Her move to Nashville was written in the stars in more ways than one; the day she moved to town, she met her future husband, Carl Deanat the Wishy Washy Laundromat.)
“I cried almost all the way to Nashville
and I wanted to turn around several times and come back
But you know how much I always wanted to go to Nashville
and be a singer and songwriter
And I believe if I try long enough and hard enough
that one day I will get there.”
– “The Letter”, My Tennessee Mountain Home, 1973
As she wrote in that 1964 letter, Parton got a job singing on The Eddie Hill Show and quickly attracted the interest of other artists who wanted to record his songs. A few years later, she would join The Porter Wagoner Show, which helped introduce the multi-talented artist to a wider audience. Finally, Parton was ready to go out on her own. She wrote “I will always love you” for her friend Wagoner as a “goodbye”. Inspired by her newfound freedom, she also wrote “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” on the car ride from Wagoner’s office.
“Cause I can see the light of a clear blue morning/ I can see the light of a brand new day/ I can see the light of a clear blue morning/ Oh, and it’ll be alright/ It’ll be alright. ” — “The Light of a Clear Blue Morning”, From New Harvest… First Gathering, 1977
But Parton wasn’t an overnight success. Before she landed a spot on the Porter Wagoner Show (or scored a Top 40 hit with “Dumb Blonde”), she was a Nashville newcomer pounding the pavement on Music Row, Nashville’s home for corporate offices. record labels and recording studios.
“I got to Nashville early
Sleepy, hungry, tired and dirty
And in the footsteps of RCA
I ate a stale, sweet bun
In the hall of fame fountain
I washed my face and read the names
In the alley of stars
Down on the music row.”
– “Down on Music Row”, My Tennessee Mountain Home, 1973
Another Parton landmark is RCA Studio B, where Parton first recorded with Wagoner — and had a driving accident.
“In my rush to get to the studio that day, I forgot a basic part of riding – braking,” Parton wrote in My life and other unfinished business (quote via RCA Studio B Blog). “I arrived at the old RCA studio on Music Row and raced straight up the side of the building. Bricks were still falling on the hood of my car as I casually walked into the recording session, as if nothing had happened. When we took a break a bit later, the men came out for a cigarette and noticed my car stuck in the wall. They made a comment, but I never said or confessed anything that was my car.
RCA Studio B History: 1611 Roy Acuff Pl Nashville, TN
No visit to Dolly Parton in Nashville is complete without a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where Parton is honored in the Hall of Fame rotunda (she was inducted in 1999) or to the Grand Ole Oprywhere Parton made his debut at the age of 13. Ten years later, she had become a member of the historical institution.
Country Music Hall of Fame: 222 Rep. John Lewis Way S, Nashville, TN 37203
Grand Ole Opry: 2804 Opryland Drive, Nashville, TN 37214
While you’re in town, grab a bite to eat at classic meat and three Arnold’s Country Kitchen restaurants (it’s said to be one of Parton’s favorites) and order a drink at White Limozeen, a Dolly-themed rooftop bar.
Arnold’s Country Kitchen: 605 8th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203
White Limo: 101 20th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37203
So I uprooted myself from my home and left
I took my dreams and hit the road
When a flower goes wild
He can still survive
Wildflowers don’t care where they grow
— Wildflowers, extract from the trio, 1987
Planning your own Dolly Parton Tennessee road trip? Check out our playlist below.